Alu and Satα hypomethylation in Helicobacter pylori-infected gastric mucosae



Global hypomethylation and regional hypermethylation are supposed to be hallmarks of cancer cells. During gastric carcinogenesis, in which Helicobacter pylori infection is causally involved, aberrant hypermethylation is already present in H. pylori-infected gastric mucosae. In contrast, little is known about global hypomethylation, which can be caused by hypomethylation of individual repetitive elements and other sequences. We, therefore, investigated hypomethylation of individual repetitive elements and the global 5-methylcytosine content in four groups of gastric mucosal samples that represented the time course of H. pylori infection and gastric carcinogenesis [gastric mucosae of H. pylori-negative healthy volunteers (G1, n = 34), H. pylori-positive healthy volunteers (G2, n = 42), H. pylori-positive gastric cancer patients (G3, n = 34) and H. pylori-negative gastric cancer patients (G4, n = 20)] and 52 primary gastric cancers. Major variants of Alu, LINE1 and Satα were identified, and their methylation levels were quantified by bisulfite pyrosequencing. Compared with G1, the Alu methylation level was decreased in G2, G3, G4 and cancers (89.2–97.1% of that in G1, p < 0.05). The Satα methylation level was decreased in G2 (91.6%, p < 0.05) and G3 (94.3%, p = 0.08) but not in G4 and cancers. The LINE1 methylation level was decreased only in cancers. The 5-methylcytosine content was at similar levels in G2, G3 and G4 and highly variable in cancers. These results showed that Alu and Satα hypomethylation is induced in gastric mucosae by H. pylori infection during gastric carcinogenesis, possibly in different target cells, and that global hypomethylation is not always present in human gastric cancers.